A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Louisiana's narrative voice has a quirky, formal Southern dignity and fondness for big words like "infinitesimally" and "perpetually" -- which contrasts with mannerisms, dialect of other characters. She's well-read and keeps pointing out that in the real Pinocchio story, Pinocchio smashes the cricket with a hammer. Story also offers moments of historical insight -- like when, in days of rotary phones, Louisiana has trouble with directory assistance operator.
Strong messages of friendship, family, kindness, resourcefulness, determination, being able to decide for yourself who and what you want to be. Also, a lot of cynical advice from grifter Granny, including "It is best to smile. That is what Granny has told me my whole life. If you have to choose between smiling and not smiling, choose smiling. It fools people for a short time. It gives you an advantage."
Positive Role Models
Lots of thieving and deceiving: Louisiana's been raised by her granny, who's basically a con artist, and at first, when things are pretty dire, she's resigned to telling adults whatever lie will get her and Granny out of the situation. Her new friend Burke makes metal slugs at his dad's shop and uses them to steal from vending machines. This is all part of the story, but it's overshadowed by lots of pure unexpected kindness, and moments where adult and kid characters just shine. Louisiana's new friend Burke is "the kind of person who, if you asked him for one of something, gave you two instead." Louisiana shows determination, strong friendship, creative thinking, willingness to stand up for herself -- and willingness to change her mind. Some adults are mean, some abandon their children, but others offer insight, compassion, wisdom.
Violence & Scariness
Not much physical violence but a lot of emotional violence in the form of adults who abandon children, with many ripple effects. A family curse and other dire events begin when a magician saws his wife-assistant in half and walks away forever (another magician puts her back together and they run off together).
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Products & Purchases
Occasional mentions of actual products, including Oh Henry! bars and Buick Skylark.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A car interior smells like tobacco. A minister smokes a pipe.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Louisiana's Way Home, by Kate DiCamillo, involves characters from Raymie Nightingale and begins two years after that book's conclusion. As in the first book, also set in the South during the 1970s, some really terrible things happen, starting with the 12-year-old narrator being yanked from her bed by her crazy scamming grandma in the middle of the night and hitting the road for parts unknown, with no word to her friends. There's a whole lot of traumatic abandonment in the story itself and in the past, where a magician's ditching his family has far-reaching consequences. Louisiana's grandmother has been conning, lying, and stealing to survive as long as anyone's known her, and involves Louisiana in her schemes. Kids are fond of stealing from vending machines, and some people are just plain mean and rotten. But coming out of all that, with many shining moments of low-key but life-changing kindness, is a strong sense of friendship, family, belonging, and determination, all seen through the eyes of a young girl you're rooting for from the first outrageous moment.
Is It Any Good?
Kate DiCamillo spins a harrowing tale of abandonment and family curses in a Southern small town in the '70s -- offset by determination, music, joy, kind strangers, and an irresistible kid narrator. Louisiana's Way Home features lots of great characters, humor, and heart. Young Louisiana's long-suffering outrage at being uprooted from home and friends (by a crazy adult) will resonate with many readers, who will find lots to cheer as she stands up to overwhelming circumstances. Here, after much struggle to find a phone, she's just failed to get the directory assistance operator to find the number of her friend back home:
"'Honey,' said the operator, 'it will all be fine.'
"And then there was a click and she was gone.
"I hung up the phone. I bent over and put my hands on my knees and worked to get air into my lungs.
"I thought, it will not all be fine.
"I thought, I am alone in the world, and I will have to find some way to rescue myself."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.